Reuters office in Second LifeOne of the things I think are missing in Second Life is voice communication (like Digitalspace Traveler has had for 10 years already).
When I saw all the recent announcements of yet another group of companies moving into Second Life, such as Reuters and Pontiac, and the previous entrance of media and music companies, I wondered why they are so interested.
Maybe it is precisely because of that absence of voice communication. You can stream music, video and presentations, no problem. The audience just cannot really talk back except through the clumsy chat function, resembling basic Q&A after a session. So all in all it looks a lot like the broadcasting situations companies are mostly used to.
Would that be the reason that companies like Second Life? Because it fits the traditional communication model for companies? Just a thought.

6 reactions on “Why Companies Love Second Life

  1. Hi Ton,
    Nice post on Second Life! I do have a couple of comments though.
    First of all, I think you are having a very negative stance on the reason companies are coming to SL. I also think it is just not true, because talking back to a company can always happen in the First Life, through the blogosphere or directly on company blogs.
    Although personally I am also surprised to see all those companies jumping on the bandwagon, I think it is primairily about:
    + not wanting to miss the “jump forward” (like with Internet?)
    + looking like a company that is on top of things and new developments
    + seeing that SL get a more and more media attention as well as inhabitants (the current growth is phenomenal!), most of which should are thought to be “first movers/adopters”
    + just plainly seeking out what the hell this SL is all about
    + finally, in terms of marketing budgets this is all peanuts: for UDS 10.000 you have a very nice place in SL, with a lot of functionality!
    Second, the voice communication is really coming to SL within 1/2-1 year now. This is a known fact to many users (read http://www.shapingthoughts.com/2006/09/08/second-life-will-get-voip-soon for example and such funtionality also has many votes on the features list: http://secondlife.com/vote/vote.php?get_id=140)
    That’s all for know! By the way, what’s your avatar name, if I may ask?
    Best regards,
    Marcel Goodfellow
    (aka Marcel de Ruiter)
    http://www.shapingthoughts.com

  2. Dag Marcel,
    Dank voor je reactie!
    My posting was meant to be somewhat tongue in cheek, and also meant to provoke reaction. Reality is always more nuanced than soundbites, even in Second Life 🙂
    But apart from that, I really do think that there is some truth in my posting.
    I agree that the reasons for entering SL as a company will most likely be different than I sketched. Immersion is an interesting aspect for advertising and PR, as is being perceived as ‘getting it’.
    But the reason they feel at home in SL might well have something to do with the inequality of means of communication. Of course SL residents can give feedback and respond, but in different channels and through different means than what the company uses to send out their message (streaming e.g.). Companies in SL can take part without ever directly talking to somebody person to person.
    And that resembles the mode of communication they are used to IRL a lot.
    I am not saying that this will never change, or that there are no companies in the world that do it differently, I’m just saying that the initial communicative (un)balance companies see in SL resembles what they still feel comfortable with IRL the most.
    best,
    Ton

  3. Don’t be a meanie, Ton. And don’t be so suspicious. Of course most companies don’t understand how to really “use” the mechanisms of SL for communicating. How could they? You questioned the validity of that metaphor but I still believe it is perfectly valid to say, that Second Life is like the web in 1995. Neither companies nor the the agencies “know” how to really utilize virtual worlds now – nor did they know how to use the web then (neither do most of them know how to use blogs and other forms of user driven media today). And when they will know, it will certainly not work best in a one to many fashion.
    And I very much doubt that the love affair of the corporate world with SL has anything to do with the lack of voice communication. Voice will come to SL. But it is not THAT easy to integrate it in a consistent way, that does not destroy the immersive effect, which is so important for this new medium.
    Cheers
    Markus

  4. Hi Ton,
    Thanks for that link: the blog is in my RSS reader now.
    It certainly was an interesting article with even a comment by first mover Eric Rice! It provides some interesting angles on what real life corporations should look for if they really want “traffic” in SL and not just a bit of media attention that the stepped into SL.
    Best regards,
    Marcel

  5. Hi Markus,
    Yes I guess I was being a bit mean…
    But not really suspicious, cautious perhaps.
    I agree that SL is a new environment we are still trying to make sense of, and create sense for. A new frontier in that sense, regardless whether its future will be SL or a successor. And that companies go through that process just as much as individuals.
    Nevertheless I maintain that there is an asymmetry of communications which introduces ‘social distance’ and a communicative power balance in a way that companies are very familiar with. In that sense they are not challenged when entering this new frontier.
    You are right that adding voice is not trivial technologically. At the same it has been done in other 3D environments from the start, without it having an effect on perception of immersion. The number of people involved as well as the number of servers do introduce questions of scaling of course.
    best,
    Ton

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